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Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design [Hardcover]

Michael Shermer
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (8 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805081216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805081213
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.7 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,324,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Shermer founded 'Skeptic' magazine and website (www.skeptic.com) and is a contributing editor, and columnist, for 'Scientific American'. Michael Shermer frequently appears on television and radio as a scientific expert.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone interested in ID 8 Dec 2006
Some background. Michael Shermer writes a column in Scientific American called Skeptic. He edits a journal called The Skeptic. He used to be a believer. He once wrote a book called Why People Believe Weird Things. He knows what he is talking about.

So he rightly got annoyed when the intelligent design concept began to make ground and he decided to write this thoughtful, intelligent and well written book. It is essential reading as an introduction to the against side in the on-going debate. He is not technical, not deeply scientific or philosophical: he just outlines the salient facts.

Most people reading this book will see the passion of someone who cares deeply about the truth (his earlier book spent much time concentrating on Holocaust deniers) and why the truth matters. He does not waste time praising ID for its insights - he just shows it up for what it is: a vacuous and empty attempt at bring the Christian God back into the classroom in the USA by smuggling it in under the transparent fleece of pseudoscience. Read it for yourself and you too will see. Unless, of course, you are not a skeptic in the proper sense: your mind is made up.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aiming at a vacant target 15 Jan 2007
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
A new cottage industry has arisen in the US - writing books to counter the rise of Christian anti-science in that nation. Michael Shermer has an edge on many of his colleagues in dealing with the version of "creationism" known as "Intelligent Design" - he's been one of their number. This may give him the advantage of a wider outlook, but the question remains whether it makes him more effective in countering the movement. His proposal is conciliatory, but relies on creationists accepting facts, not fantasies or ideologies. It's a difficult task, but Shermer's long experience as a sceptic of fallacious notions supports his efforts. It also provides him with a polished writing style that should convince the most obscurantist holdout.

In his Prologue, Shermer clearly targets his audience - that segment of the US population who thinks the universe is less than ten thousand years old. He portrays the demographics that refine the numbers. So much so that you feel the publisher should have packed bookstores in the American South with extra copies. The author's own epiphany - "the scales fell from my eyes" - during his university days is his justification. If it can happen to him, it can happen with other evangelicals. He uses the history of thinking about natural selection and the various arguments against it to construct a dialogue. He lists the points creationists raise, then counters them effectively. That's not terribly challenging - his "case" after all, is one contending with an empty thesis entirely lacking any supporting evidence.

Evolution is a fact, he contends, and explains the nature of how research has verified Darwin's original concept. He notes the many challenges to detailed processes of natural selection, but insists these minutiae don't refute the theory.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
In "Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design" Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, reviews succinctly both the overwhelming evidence in support of contemporary evolutionary theory and the pseudoscientific religious nonsense known as Intelligent Design, and then, discusses "the real, unsolved problems in evolution". Shermer, for example, has ample space to describe briefly Ernst Mayr's theory of allopatric speciation, and its relationship to punctuated equilibrium, the evolutionary paleontological theory developed by American invertebrate paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould. But he also devotes ample space to dissecting Intelligent Design concepts like William Dembski's "Law of Conservation of Information", noting its irrelevance to both current mathematical information theory and the transfer and accretion of information - via DNA - in living biological systems. He offers an elegant overview of the origins and history of the so-called "Evolution vs. Intelligent Design Debate", devoting ample time to the existence of the infamous "Wedge Document" and the trial proceedings of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial and, of course, the harsh verdict rendered by Federal Judge John E. Jones III against both Intelligent Design and the Dover Area School District board.

Shermer's terse tome is noteworthy for several reasons.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Evolution is not Darwin, and vice versa 12 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are a range of books from both science and from creation(isms) explaining their position and what is really required is a book that tries to speak beyond the converted as it were. In this goal Shermer's is as good as any although Kenneth R. Miller's position as a noted biologist, debunker of intelligent design and a person of faith positions him in prime real intellectual real estate in being able to really get people thinking and re-thinking about the issues of design, meaning and purpose.

I bought the book and it was good value. A criticism I have with Shermer is that along with a lot of evolutionary minded thinkers situational, contingent (and especially regarding humans) cultural factors are underplayed in the assertion that evolution is the process that can provide the dominant narrative for all life, including human life. Since 1859 there has been no accepted theory of culture from the evolutionary presective despite 10+ schools trying to generate such a theory of the social world of humankind. While this remains the case humans (in a very real sense) will be beyond the complete grip of the evolutionary model. Evolutionary theorists Boyd & Richerson have said that a failure for evolutionary theory to account for culture would undermine the entire Darwinian revolution. I think this is a gross over-exaggeration. The theory of evolution is the telling theory of biological and botanical evolution in the nature setting. Darwin noted several times that natural selection was much diminished in civilised societies but evolutionary theorists are quite defensive at the notion that evolutionary theory (strong in the nature setting) is another partial theory of the social world of humankind.
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